Few places in Africa stir the imagination as much as the words ‘Maasai Mara’. Jonathan and Sophie visit Rekero Camp in the National Reserve to sample its magic
Review by Jonathan and Sophie Ellaby.
It’s lunchtime with our hosts Conway and Clea and our table looks out right down the Talek River as a herd of a hundred wildebeest gather nervously at the banks. “It looks like we might get a crossing”, says Clea and I reach impulsively for my camera and prime it – high ISO, ten frames per second – ready for action.
During the migration season the crossings are regular – the stuff of wildlife documentaries – complete with lurking crocs and lions. We know the lions aren’t far away. “Sometimes we’ll be eating lunch, watching the lions ambush the wildebeest crossing”, Clea continues. The close proximity killing might put you off your lunch but we’d still like to see it!
Today though something spooks the wildebeest (the lions, perhaps?) and they draw back at the last minute, disappearing into the plains in a thunder of hooves.
So that’s the setting for Rekero – right on the Talek river, in the heart of Maasai Mara Reserve. Our tent is a good two minute walk from the main tent, also overlooking the river – rustic (bucket showers, hot water to order) but comfortable, and very, very close to nature. Last night lions surrounded the camp keeping everyone awake, and camp-friendly elephant and buffalo put in regular appearances. We prefer tents over bricks and mortar – all the better to hear the lions.
But the main attraction here is the profusion and quality of the game watching and that afternoon we head out with our Maasai guide, Sammy.
The Mara really is special. Even if there were no animals, the breathtaking landscape alone would be worth visiting for – we drive up Rhino Ridge for incredible views across the plains. The sky is stormy but the sun is out, casting a rainbow across the sky; the colours are so vivid you almost have to reduce the colour saturation in the photos or friends will accuse you of Photoshopping them. That the plains are sprinkled with thousands of wildebeest and zebra, and that we’re watching a leopard crouching under a bush are an added bonus.
But the real prize comes later – parked next to three cheetah, one of them spots a Cape Hare and suddenly streaks off in pursuit. Nanoseconds later the other two are following and all we see is a blur of spots, and a hare running for its life. The hare wasn’t quick enough and we watched with a mixture of horror and fascination as the three siblings ripped the hare apart and consumed their respective shares. I didn’t even have time to get the lens cap off my camera!
Suddenly we didn’t mind as much about missing the wildebeest lion ambush.
Back at the camp the evening rains have set in (the short rainy season is upon us) and we eat a delicious dinner with our hosts and other guests as the rain beats down on the canvas roof. Rekero is small and meals are mostly communal (our favourite) – at Rekero you’re made to feel part of the family.
There are pros and cons to being situated in the main National Reserve, compared with the surrounding Conservancies. If you want to feel as if you’re in a proper wilderness (we do), then the Reserve is the place to stay – you won’t see Maasai with their cattle on your game drive, or drive through villages en-route to your game viewing. Sightings can be more crowded in the Reserve though, especially during peak season. Personally though, we don’t mind sharing our cheetah kill sighting with a few other vehicles. And Rekero, in the heart of the Reserve, is exceptionally well run. Most guests fly in from Nairobi to the nearby airstrip. To drive in can be an adventure in itself (we know, we did it), especially in the rainy season…
Don’t just take it from us – Rekero has a high proportion of return guests, which is testament in itself, and it’s a top choice for Maasai Mara National Reserve.
Good for: Fantastic wildlife viewing in Kenya’s prime Reserve in a friendly, informal yet highly professional camp
Not so good for: Not much: see notes above on the pros and cons of the Reserve v Conservancies
Our verdict: All round superb choice for the Maasai Mara, not much to fault here